Time for Social Media Therapy in 2014?

enough time for social mediaBrian Solis, one of the pioneering voices in social media and one of my fave raconteurs, wrote a provocative year-end post called My So-Called Digital Life. In it, he turns a harsh light on social media behavior and questioned its value in our lives. As we look to the year ahead and prepare to orchestrate our communication plans—either for personal or business impact, I believe Solis’ thoughts resonate.

Whether it’s selfies, the sandwich on your plate, life events, new profile pictures, a vacation spot, your updated relationship status, a provocative quote, a random icebreaker, or humble brag,  we are wired for instant response and reaction. He observes, “With every action, we expect an equal or greater reaction.” It seems we are learning to measure our intrinsic worth as human beings in likes, comments, shares, retweets, and the coveted “favorite-d” tweet.  Solis contends, “We invite attention because we’re learning to lean on it and the reactions that pour through our screens warm us.  It reminds us that we’re appreciated, that we’re loved, that we’re alive.”

But, this is hollow praise, isn’t it? Superficial, temporal, and oh so fleeting—plus, it’s dependent on the whims and approval of others.  It is only a flimsy substitution for a core sense of self-worth and soul substance. Most any therapist would tell you this is not a solid plan for long-term mental health. Perhaps Solis is right. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate “the system”—to move on to a more psychologically healthy phase of social media– giving us the opportunity to invest differently and get more substance out of our digital lifestyle—and  perhaps more meaning out of our lives as a whole. Here are some initial musings for 2014:

mindfulness1. Engage in mindfulness. I think one way to transcend the shallow cycle of self-involvement is to approach social media with a sense of mindfulness—that is, try experiencing the moment fully for yourself first before commenting or feeling compelled to share or garner feedback.  Stay present and conscious – with yourself and for yourself first and foremost. Stay in the moment. Observe, yes, but participate fully and mindfully  in your own life.

2. Make it valuable.  The second is also pretty practical, too. If you are in business, focus on your customer’s needs and therefore and serving up relevant, engaging content that is worth their time and attention. Make it about value—early and often.

3. Put it in context. For the most part, we’ve begun to embrace content marketing, but in 2014, we’ll become more sophisticated about its deployment. We’ll discover that context is essential—especially with respect to the specific social channels used, media, target audiences, times of day . . . the many variables that define and design its relevance.   Brands should start asking themselves, “How are people using a particular social channel?” and “What makes a channel unique?” Then they will create contextually relevant content based on those insights. More and more, marketers will discover content may be king, but the power is in the context.

4.   Communicate from the inside out. This has been my mantra for a couple of years—particularly for small businesses, but it’s expanding into the enterprise social media realm.  This may seem painfully obvious, but social media synergy happens, well, socially.  Collaboration is the best way to ignite engagement. It’s that simple, and it starts with your internal team. They know your business best, anyway. You pay them to make it their business, right?  Empower them instead of thwarting them on social profiles. Give them guidelines and messaging to carry forward, around, and through.  We are talking about cultivating the social employee. We cannot communicate externally until we communicate internally. Good to remember in just about any context.

Snack, nibble, taste5. Snack, nibble and taste. Content need not be a bitter pill or a long dreary blog post. Make it tasty, fun and delicious. Make a quick 60-second video. Share a serious of fun photos or a really cool infographic.  Video. Video. Video.  Short-form video—Twitter’s Vine app and Instagram’s 15-second video make it incredibly easy to create and share this short-form content, so take the time to not only understand how to use these platforms but also how users consume content on them.

6.  Divide and conquer. It’s time to reel in the scatter-shot approach. Cultivate a solid presence in one or two channels rather than dominate every single platform.  Re-purpose your content as webinars, blog posts, ebooks, videos and social media content. Go for frequency and volume.  Stop whipping yourself into a social media frenzy– unless you enjoy that sort of thing! And for heaven’s sake, go for LinkedIn—especially if you are not maximizing it already. Develop a comprehensive LI strategy that leverages leadership profiles, group participation and your company profile.  LinkedIn is poised for major growth and impact in 2014—and if you’re in business and not on there, you’ll be missing the boat. Watch for some big feature announcements.

Your content awaits  . . . What are your thoughts for social media mindfulness?

CONTACT ME ANY TIME!

No more waiting in the weeds: Make time to grow your social media garden

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social change. Elaine covers social media for nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Find her at SocialFuse.

gardenI recently read Josh Catone’s Mashable post on the “5 Essential Tips for Promoting Your Charity Using Social Media.” I applaud Josh’s concise synthesis of the basic-level concepts defining social media. But I really think it’s time to help organizations get specific and tactical. We need to move from musing to mastering. Many of the organizations I advise are still befuddled and overwhelmed by social media. They seem to view social media as some separate, daunting frontier they need to confront and invade. However, in many ways, social media is really just a new, better way of helping nonprofits do what they do best – engage. It’s made for us! We need to move the conversation from “Why should we?” to “How should we?” It’s now more of a functional shift than a philosophical one. Josh’s recommendations are well-taken and commonly held. Yet, here are some additional thoughts to ponder to take your strategy to the next level:

Build a Plan and Work It.
Josh instructs that you’ll get a much better return on your investment in social media if you take the time to actually engage your followers, friends, and constituents. He warns that we should not just broadcast information. We should consume it, as well. Indeed, this is the way social media works, but the question is – How do we work this? To foster relationships, organizations need to officially delegate responsibility for regular care, feeding, and cultivation of online communities to staff, trained volunteers, or perhaps, an outside agency or consultant. Simply creating a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile will not produce results. Start by assessing the following:

• Your Goals – SEO, PR, traffic (to drive awareness? advertising click-thrus? conversions?)
• Your Audience – Where do your constituents/stakeholders live? What do you want them to do?
• Your Resources – You, interns, staff, agency, consultant? Budget? Communication tools?

Social media is organic – much like a garden which must be regularly tended and even weeded. It’s all about activity and careful attention. Here are some specific tasks to help your garden take root and thrive:

• Create and update blogs and tags at least once a week.
• Respond to all blog comments within 24 hours.
• Pose questions in and respond to queries in relevant Linked In discussion groups.
• Tweet at least once daily and retweet (RT@) content relevant to your mission.
• Respond to Facebook comments promptly, and update Facebook status at least daily.
• Post high-value content, such as videos, articles, and blogs across key social media platforms.
• Identify the A-List blogs and cultivate positive relationships with as many as possible to persuade them to blog about your issue. Or guest blog for them.
• Drop html links with target anchor text related to a specific call to action, relevant product, or web resource for an additional SEO lift and traffic increase.
• Start and update a custom, branded community such as Ning to drive engagement and enhance SEO on your own site.

Create a Human Persona.
Social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize interaction. Those who are immersed in social media are not really looking for a press release or canned “mission statement.” They are hungry for intimate, behind-the-scenes, authentic access. Think about ways to make the private public. This is the messaging that will attract and embrace.

Create Valuable Content.
Josh recommends sharing only the highest quality content. This is key. I was speaking with a friend just today about the challenge of being inundated with information. With so much competition for the attention of constituents, you need to make sure the content you publish and share is relevant and real. So, be sure to consider the context and the medium. Perhaps, consider experimenting with videos on your website – feature video testimonials from donors and/or recipients. Social media is about storytelling – truth that touches the heart.

Create Community Instantly
Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. Using social media platforms to issue a call to action online can trigger viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively – enabling you to reach new audiences. Plus, using tools, such as #hashtags on Twitter, can help you create improvised communities around issues on the fly. Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, but you add them directly to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag. Read more about them on Beth Kanter’s blog.

Create a Social Media Culture.
Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your organization should help cultivate your social media presence. As Josh says, if everyone at your charity is connecting with people on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll be able to engage many more people than if just a couple of folks are tasked with using social media tools. But, in the realm of the tactical, you should not expect this to “just happen magically.” Create a social media policy – even if it consists of a simple public relations calendar of messages, events, or campaigns to discuss organization-wide. Include your staff, donors, and even recipients. And don’t forget your board of directors. Nonprofits are constantly seeking ways to engage boards in resource building, and social media is a great way to involve boards of directors – especially when it comes to tapping into their potentially powerful spheres of influence.

“That is well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our garden.”
-Voltaire

How are you cultivating your social media garden? What’s helping you thrive? Let me know if you need help planting the seeds. Find me at SocialFuse.